I read a blog entry on the http://retailstore.blogspot.com/ this weekend titled "Customer Service, Dell, Yahoo, Flames and Blogs". It details a customer's difficult journey to get support from an on-line company

I certainly agree with five of the six lessons in the post, which I paraphrased...

1. Train customer service reps to diagnose problems.
2. Respond quickly to email.
3. Don't make online customers call.
4. Executive blogs should include contact information as an escalation path.
5. Search other customer blogs for info on how to correct the problem.

I'll add my own: Jump through hoops: Remember that the customer on the line is a future repeat customer and your best advertising. It takes a lot less to keep a good customer than acquire a new one.

A couple of personal examples, as I have experienced great on-line support from Dell and HP. When we needed a part for my wife's Dell laptop at home, I was able to quickly file a customer claim on their website (on a Thursday). A couple of days later -- on the following Monday -- the replacement part arrived via Priority Mail. Just awesome. My last PC purchase and endorsement to my family when looking for a new laptop? Dell.

And with HP, when my scanner had developed some quirks near the end of the one-year warranty, they quickly escalated my chat session to a manager who called me on HP's dime and then initiated a full replacement for my then under-warranty scanner. To a more expensive model, with a new 1 year warranty. And at no cost to me. The last two printers I purchased? No surprise, both HP models.

As for our own support, I would like to replay this event from over the holidays.

I was standing in line at SeaTac airport, getting the boarding passes from the United Airlines automated system. Of course, the passes would not print, and a gate agent came to my aid, getting me the passes I needed for the family quickly and then checking in my bags directly.

The gate agent then told me of a problem she was running into on her new PC that she had purchased over the holidays: eager to make our flight, I handed her a Quick Assistance card and told her to call the number on the card for help, as I wasn't able to diagnose the problem on the spot.

So, a couple of days later, the gate agent emails me, saying that she had spoken with our customer service folks and that they had solved her PC problem... as well as some common household chores.

You see, she also noted that having recently developed a leak in her home's roof, she wished that roof installers offered such levels of support when you asked. Turns out the customer service agent was listening.

"I greatly appreciated the consideration of the Microsoft computer assistance... which came in handy (with my) new computer and Office XP.

"I'll see what they say about roof repair! : )"

I'm not sure that the Microsoft Customer Service Centre handles home maintenance, but you never know.

You see, it happend that the roof repair the gate agent had mentioned was a tricky thing for the roofing contractor to diagnose, and the Microsoft customer service agent following up with her was able to assist there, too. 

When the customer mentioned that they'd seen a dark spot on the ceiling of their room, the customer service agent asked if the spot on the ceiling was damp.

Yep, sure was.

Turns out the damp ceiling was a direct indication of where the contractors needed to focus their roof repair work, something they hadn't been able to notice on their own.  That saved the home owner time and money fixing the roof.

I've received some of the best advice on home networking and installation from the team.  Next time I have to do some work on our kitchen, I think that I'll call our customer service line.

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